Friday 29 January 2016

Joan carries on ... as Lily Duveen

This blog is part of a new regular series on Carry On Blogging. I'm going to attempt to blog about each of Joan Sims' wonderful roles in the Carry On films. Joan was the most prolific of all the actresses involved in the series, clocking up 24 films. Indeed, only Kenneth Williams made more Carry Ons.

This time, it's Joan's role as Lily Duveen in Carry On Regardless that's under the spotlight. This was Joan's fourth Carry On in quick succession and Regardless was the fifth in the series. The franchise had quickly established itself and the audience couldn't get enough. Joan was regularly employed by Rogers and Thomas, not only because she was a belting actress but also because she could work quickly and efficiently without any starry nonsense. She was also, by now, a big hit with the rest of the gang forming close friendships with Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams. 

Joan was also lifelong friends with the latest Carry On recruit for Regardless, Liz Fraser. As the two female leads in this film, they excel. The arrival of Liz meant the end for Joan's role as the glamorous Carry On pin up, which was a shame but Regardless still provides her with some excellent opportunities to shine. 

The basic premise of Regardless is the Helping Hands Agency with Sid James and Esma Cannon at the helm. They employed the regular gang of goons to undertake all kinds off odd jobs and the film that results is really just a collection of loose sketches. It works really well but at some points, because the cast is so big, you forget they are all in it!  Kenneth Connor gets the majority of the film and is superb throughout although this means actors like Bill Owen, Charles Hawtrey and Terence Longdon are criminally underused.

Joan's role as Lily Duveen is fantastic although there is a very early incident of her being used as the butt of the joke, with her figure being criticised. This aside, Regardless provides Joan with one of her finest Carry On sequences: the infamous wine tasting scene! Lily attends the wine tasting to act as hostess but is invited to stay for a drink and several scoops later she ends up punching Nicholas Parsons! This scene has gone down in Carry On legend. Joan's versatility and comedic timing are exemplary and she looks stunning too. Always the professional, Joan carried on regardless (as it were) even when the director Gerald Thomas spiked her "wine" with neat gin, at 8.30 in the morning!

Joan also shares scenes with Kenneth Connor again, as she tries to persuade his character to give up smoking. It's a relatively ordinary scene but beautifully played by the two actors. She also ended up in a bath with Kenneth Williams at the Ideal Homes Exhibition. Need I say more?

Carry On Regardless in undoubtedly more farcical and episodic than any of the previous Carry Ons. I love it though and Joan does well with the material she is given. My only complaint is that because the cast is so vast, it does feel like her scenes are rather few and far between. For whatever reason, Regardless marked the end of a run of four original Carry Ons for Joan. She would miss the next for films in the series before returning for Carry On Cleo which began filming in the late Summer of 1964.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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